School Funding Burden of Proof

How much money is required to fund Ohio's schools? The Ohio Supreme Court directed the State of Ohio to determine that figure in the DeRolph school funding lawsuit. The state did not respond with a credible number; Ohio's school funding system continues to be unconstitutional

There are two reasons the state was unable to produce a credible number: the methodology used, and the increasing burden of unfunded mandates.

John Augenblick's "Inferential Methodology"

The state chose school funding expert John Augenblick to assist in determining the cost of a "thorough and efficient" education. In Augenblick's methodology, successful schools districts are identified and the total costs are averaged to produce a cost estimate. Specific program elements are not costed out. Deficiencies in the methodology are described in an exemplary critique from the United Church of Christ and in the Plaintiffs Post-Hearing Briefing, "The Inferential Methodology Devised By The State's Putative Expert, Dr. Augenblick, And Utilized By The State To Determine The Cost Of Education, Is Unreliable, Illogical, Unprincipled, And Inherently Incapable Of Assuring Educational Adequacy (page 80)."

An alternative to the Augenblick methodology is used by Alan Odden, school funding expert from the University of Wisconsin. This methodology costs out individual program elements. However, the efficacy of individual program elements can not reliably be determined. So although the State of New Jersey rejected the Augenblick methodology and adopted Odden's "zero-based budgeting" methodology, the Commissioner of Education for New Jersey recently returned to court to file for relief from the "zero-based" program which proved ineffective.

The Increasing Burden of Unfunded Mandates

Even if programs could be identified that reliably produce a desired outcome, costing out a program is complicated when the desired outcome is redefined, through unfunded mandates or rising expectations for student success. The Ohio Supreme Court spoke to this in its DeRolph II decision. The extent to which Ohio has failed to define the requirements of an adequate education is detailed in the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign study guide to The Cost of an Adequate Education.